Coral Wynter

The fertile plains of the Ord River Irrigation Area around Kununurra in Western Australia are being transformed by plantations of Indian sandalwood, Santalum album

It is the largest commercial production of Indian sandalwood in the world. In more than 60% of the total farming area around Kununurra, about 3500 hectares, sandalwood has supplanted food crops such as melons, pumpkins, legumes, chick peas, bananas, and many other crops.

A landmark ruling in Sydney on February 15 gave the biotechnology industry an unprecedented right to make huge profits from genetic testing.

The case involved the breast cancer genes BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 and the right of US biotechnology company Myriad Genetics to have exclusive licence to a patent over their use in research.

Federal Court Justice John Nicholas had ruled that a private company can continue to hold a patent over an isolated gene, in this case, the BRCA gene. The BRCA gene is responsible for repairing or removing defective DNA cells.

About 300 students from the Paraguayan National University and the private Catholic University marched to the national police headquarters in Asuncion on October 25 to protest the new Law of Higher Education (LES).

The law passed through the lower house of the Paraguayan Congress three weeks earlier, and is currently before the Upper House.

During the protest, Romilio Gonzalez and Johana Orihuela, members of the Popular University Movement, spoke to Green Left Weekly.

“This is one of a number of actions we are carrying out,” Orihuela said.

In a show of force, about 10,000 supporters of the Frente Guasu attended a rally addressed by the party’s leader, ex-president of Paraguay Fernando Lugo, in the regional city of Coronel Ovideo on October 25.

Lugo was deposed in June in a parliamentary coup. Lugo's removal was organised by right-wing forces opposed to progressive changes that threatening to challenge the interests of the traditional oligarchy and US imperialism.

As the final weeks of the Venezuelan presidential election campaign unfold, an intense battle of ideas is under way. The poll on October 7 is looming as one of the most important elections in the country´s history.

“My plan is to demolish the ultra-right so that a true opposition arises, because I am ready to work with them,” Venezuelan socialist President Hugo Chavez told a mass rally of supporters of his re-election campaign in the Caracas neighbourhood of Charallave on September 9.

About 120 people attended the Pitt St Uniting Church on June 18 for the launch of Refugee Week, which was the themed “Freedom from Fear”.

Five women singers from Sierra Leone in traditional dress and headgear opened the event, which was hosted by the Refugee Council of Australia and NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors.

The chairperson, SBS Dateline’s Yalda Hakim, who is also a former refugee from Afghanistan, said she had just returned from Tunisia where 100,000 foreign workers are crossing the border to escape the fighting in Libya.

With a clearly nervous David Hicks in front of a packed audience of 1000 people at the Sydney Writers' Festival on May 22, his interviewer Donna Mulhearn did a great job in breaking the ice. “Is it true that Channel 7,” she said, as we were all waiting for the hard political question, “asked you to go on ‘Dancing with the Stars’?”

Apparently it is true.

New Coalition premier of NSW, Barry O'Farrell, may be rethinking his decision to slash the electricity power rebate to solar power customers after some of his own Liberal Party MPs vowed to vote against it.

About 1500 angry people rallied at the plaza of Sydney’s Customs House on May 18 to protest the slashing of the rebate from 60 cents a kilowatt hour to 40c. The rally had to be moved from an overflowing indoor location

On July 29, the leaders of the 12 countries belonging to the Union of the Southern Nations (Unasur) held an emergency meeting in Quito, Ecuador, to discuss the crisis between Venezuela and Colombia.

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